There’s always a good reason to host a holiday brunch: Family is visiting, friends are dropping by for the day or you might just decide it’s the perfect way to celebrate the holidays in a more relaxed fashion. All are good excuses to make a beautiful, simple meal that everyone will love. And of course, no festivities are complete without dessert.
To me the perfect brunch dessert is one that is not too sweet, not too rich and especially not chocolaty — this chestnut cake fits the bill! Chestnuts have always been a favorite of mine. As a child I adored marrons glacés (a French specialty of sweetened, whole chestnuts) so much that I would request them as a gift for my birthday or at Christmastime.
Thankfully my adult taste buds are less prone to intensely sweet morsels. So I turned to chestnut flour to create a cake that would capture the essence of those beloved childhood treats. Slightly sweet, a little spongy and packed with that oddly delicious chestnut flavor, this cake is an ideal holiday brunch dessert.
Served with warm pan-roasted Bartlett pears and a little chestnut honey syrup, it’s absolutely enchanting and even a little addictive.
Chestnut cake with pan-roasted pears and chestnut honey syrup
makes 1 medium cake or serves 8
active time: 40 min
For the cake
- 1 1/4 cups chestnut flour (gluten-free)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch sea salt
- 3 extra large eggs – at room temperature
- 2/3 cup organic sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (6 oz) (170 g) – melted and slightly cooled
- 9″ non-stick round spring-form cake pan – buttered and floured
For the pan-roasted pears
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 medium, ripe Bartlett or red pears – peeled and cut in 1/2″ slices
- 1 tablespoon organic sugar
For the chestnut honey syrup
- 1/2 cup chestnut honey
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- herb sprig as garnish
- powdered sugar as garnish
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180ºC).
- Step 1: In a small bowl, combine the chestnut flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Place the eggs in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, using the whisk attachments, whip at high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft peaks form and the mixture is a pale cream color. Add the sugar gradually, until well incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla. Continue whipping at high speed for another 30 seconds. With a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, fold the chestnut flour mixture into the egg mixture until just incorporated. Then fold in the butter. Do not overmix or the cake will not rise. Pour mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until just golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in its mold to room temperature before serving.
- Step 2: When ready to assemble the dessert, heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat and add the butter. Once melted, add the pear slices and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until golden. Reduce heat to medium, sprinkle the pear slices with the sugar and flip them, being careful not to break them. Continue to sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until golden. Remove pear slices from pan and set aside. Return the pan to the stove and heat over medium heat. Add the honey and lemon juice and turn off the heat. Stir until the honey becomes liquid-y (about 5 seconds).
- Step 3: To serve – Place a slice of cake in the center of a dessert plate. Place a few warm pear slices next to it. Drizzle with the chestnut honey syrup. Garnish with an herb sprig, dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
- Cook’s note: The cake can be made up to 2 days ahead and kept at room temperature in a cool place. The pears and syrup should be made right before serving.